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Archive for September 2014

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at the Ahmanson Theatre

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Photo by Craig Schwartz

Margaret Gray – LA Times

Michael Wilson’s revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful,” which has just opened at the Ahmanson Theatre, premiered on Broadway in 2013 to a bounty of praise and nominations, especially for Cicely Tyson, who won the Tony Award for her portrayal of Mrs. Carrie Watts.

Originally written as a teleplay in 1953, “Trip” tells the story of an elderly woman’s return to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas. A trustworthy vehicle for star turns—by Lillian Gish and Geraldine Page, among others—it has been recast in this production with black characters.
Read more…

Hoyt Hilsman  -  Huffington Post

Horton Foote’s enchanting tale of an old woman’s single-minded quest to return to her childhood home gets a memorable production under the deft direction of Michael Wilson and featuring thrilling performances by Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Blair Underwood.If ever there were a work defined by its poignancy, it would be Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, the story of an elderly woman’s efforts to live out her last days at her beloved childhood home. Set in Texas in the 1950s, it’s one of those leisurely paced plays that pays homage to nostalgia and runs the risk of being ickily sentimental.

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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

If ever there were a work defined by its poignancy, it would be Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, the story of an elderly woman’s efforts to live out her last days at her beloved childhood home. Set in Texas in the 1950s, it’s one of those leisurely paced plays that pays homage to nostalgia and runs the risk of being ickily sentimental.

But that pitfall is dodged in the current, splendid production at the Ahmanson. Directed by Michael Wilson, it’s propelled by veteran artist Cicely Tyson as the runaway, Mrs. Carrie Watts, with Blair Underwood as her troubled son Ludie and a volcanic Vanessa Williams as her spiteful and shallow daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae. Read more…

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Les Spindle –  Frontiers L.A.

Boasting a rich history dating back to a 1953 teleplay, Horton Foote’s deeply affecting family drama scored a career-capping milestone for Cicely Tyson in a 2013 Broadway revival, as she earned richly deserved Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards.
The Ahmanson’s first-class rendition stars the luminescent Tyson repeating her role of feisty elderly widow Carrie Watts alongside outstanding portrayals by Vanessa Williams, repeating her take on Carrie’s impatient daughter-in-law, and Blair Underwood as Carrie’s son. Determined to make one last pilgrimage to her home in rural Bountiful, the elderly woman flees from her Houston home, leading to a profoundly cathartic journey.
A first-rate supporting cast is led by Jurnee Smollett-Bell as a kind young woman who meets the runaway matriarch at a bus depot.Foote’s funny and heartrending classic remains fresh and vibrant, courtesy of Michael Wilson’s sensitive direction, sterling performances by all and a gorgeously evocative design effort.

 

Now running through Nov. 2.

CHOIR BOY at the Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy is a mess but all the same a bona fide crowd pleaser. Its characters are drawn with remarkable inconsistency, and they’re put through enough subplots (touched on, though never explored fully) for a play twice its two-hour length. What pulls it through is the passion of director Trip Cullman’s cast, as well as the potency of the theme that occupies more stage time than a dozen or so others: the power of song to unite and heal. Read more...

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Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

At first, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s study of five, black prep-school students (Jeremy Pope, Nicholas L. Ashe, Donovan Mitchell, Grantham Coleman and Caleb Eberhardt), along with their stern headmaster (Michael A.Shepperd) and a visiting white professor (Leonard Kelly-Young) from the Civil Rights era, might seem schematic. Read more…

 

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

While few doubt the capacious talent of 33-year-old Tarell Alvin McCraney, on the evidence of his trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays, he could have been mistaken for an accessibly esoteric artist trafficking in Orisha myths and remote subcultures. Read more…

 

 

Now running through Oct. 26.

ORPHANS at the Westchester Playhouse

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Photo by Shari Barrett

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

The three actors of Orphans hurl themselves to the floor, barrel across the stage, and bound around with their ankles tied together. Theirs are athletic, fully energized portrayals that turn Kentwood Players’s Westchester Playhouse into a virtual athletic field.
   But their subtle and truthful internalized reactions to their characters’ circumstances, as well as Kentwood’s choice of this brutal yet tender allegory, make this the most daring, exhilarating piece of theater seen on this stage in a long while.
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Now running through Oct. 18.

THE BEHAVIOR OF BROADUS at the Sacred Fools Theater Company

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David C. Nichols – LA Times

Controversial psychology and show-biz moxie commingle in “The Behavior of Broadus,” with triumphant results.

As delightfully self-assured as it is comically self-referential, made up of equal parts whimsy, wacky, profane and profound, this cracked experiment in satirical musical development is a wickedly entertaining watershed for Sacred Fools Theater Company, the Burglars of Hamm, Center Theatre Group and the general theatrical landscape. Read more…

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

Straight up, the Sacred Fool–Burglars of Hamm co-production of  The Behavior of Broadus is the most audacious, provocative, entertaining, original musical to premiere in LA since 2008’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, to which the new show bears more than a little resemblance.. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

Directors Matt Almos and Ken Roht turn The Behavior of Broadus into a beautifully acted, entrancing spectacle following the life and existential crisis of one John Broadus Watson. Read more…

Now running through Oct. 25.

SPRING AWAKENING at Inner City Arts

Photo by Tate Tullier

Photo by Tate Tullier

Bob Verini  -   Stage Raw

Upon leaving the opening night performance of Deaf West and The Forest of Arden’s co-production Spring Awakening – Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s 2006 rock musical about sexual awakening/repression in 19th century European teens, based on the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind — I posted a blissful Tweet announcing that people should see this “beautiful” show, and I stand by that assessment. Read more…

Sharon Perlmutter  -  Talkin’ Broadway

My previous experience with Spring Awakening – its national tour stop at the Ahmanson – did not endear the show to me. Among other issues, I found it difficult to connect with the characters. I had sympathy for the teens (in 1891 Germany) who were trying to find their way despite parental-imposed sexual ignorance, but found the show ultimately unmoving. Read more…

Now running through Oct. 19.

HOLLYWOOD PARTY at the Hudson Mainstage

 

 

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Neal Weaver  – Stage Raw

Playwright-director-costume designer Octavio Carlin bills himself as “dress designer to the stars,” and his claims to be a fashion designer have a certain credibility. The gowns he has designed for the ladies of his ensemble are handsomely outre (and a program insert informs us that they can all be purchased at the Octavio Carlin Store on Kings Road). But he is not yet much of a playwright or director. Read more…

Now running through Oct. 19.

LOW HANGING FRUIT at the Zephyr Theatre

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

The plight of homeless women veterans is a story that needs to be told, not once but many times. In Low Hanging Fruit, playwright Robin Bradford makes that story her aim, but her script has been rushed to the stage too soon. Read more…

Now running  through October 26.

YOU LOVE THAT I’M NOT YOUR WIFE at the Avery Schreiber Playhouse

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Les Spindle –  Edge on the Net

A new theater group, the Fringe Theatre Company in North Hollywood, offers the premiere of an ensemble play set in contemporary L.A. Writer-director Joanne Mosconi’s “You Love That I’m Not Your Wife” is a multi-character battle-of-the-sexes comedy in which various couples and potential couples face myriad challenges in starting and/or solidifying relationships. Read more…  yl

Now running through Oct. 5.  ylll

RUN FOR YOUR WIFE at the Torrance Theatre Company

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Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

Farce is a difficult form of theater. Torrance Theatre Company is taking it on, in the form of Ray Cooney’s Run for Your Wife. The set here is sturdy, the actors competent. But, under the direction of Gary Robbins, much of the piece is played as if it were a drama. Read more…

 Now running through October 12.

KISS ME KATE at the Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Earl Gibson III

Photo by Earl Gibson III

Margaret Gray – LA Times

Let’s Make a Deal’s” Wayne Brady as the lead in a revival of “Kiss Me, Kate”: It almost sounds like an especially wacky draft in some fantasy stunt-casting league for theater directors.

Sheldon Epps of the Pasadena Playhouse has not only made it happen, he has used it as the inspiration for an ingenious adaptation of the beloved 1948 musical.Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Pasadena Playhouse‘s artistic director Sheldon Epps and music director Rahn Coleman have updated the musical comedy juggernaut Kiss Me, Kate by altering some of the orchestrations and featuring a mostly black cast to “showcase the trailblazing African-American actors and entertainers of the early 20th century.” This production has many dazzling moments, particularly because of the supporting cast, but it’s not without its faults in casting and concept. Read more…

Bob Verini  -   Stage Raw

Your typical Kiss Me, Kate features exactly one African-American. It’s Hattie the maid, who kicks off the proceedings with the lead vocals on “Another Op’nin’, Another Show”  and thereafter recedes into the background during the Baltimore tryout of a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.   Read more…

Now running through Oct. 12.

 

 

 

 

MARJORIE PRIME at the Mark Taper Forum

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

On the heels of Spike Jonze’s award-winning film Her comes another whimsical, futuristic, seriocomic speculation about artificial intelligence’s commercial and emotional potential.

This one is Jordan Harrison’s world premiere play at the Taper, titled Marjorie Prime, and concededly it lacks the heft of Jonze’s celebrated Oscar winner, not to mention its unforgettable strain of steamy sexuality.

Photo by Craig Schwartz

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Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Death takes a holiday from onstage depiction in Marjorie Prime, the new play by Jordan Harrison, a writer on Orange is The New Black. The same goes for grief and loss, though the drama is suffused with a piquant sense of all of them. Instead, the deceased appear only in the form of a computer program. Its aim is to provide solace by projecting the departed’s physical presence, based on detailed input from the bereaved. Read more…

Pauline Adamek  - ArtsBeatLA

A terrible play, and depressing as well, playwright Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime is set in a not-too-distant future and imagines a world where sophisticated robots have been fashioned as human companions.  Read more…

Dany Margolies – The Daily News

Center Theatre Group’s “Marjorie Prime” doesn’t teach its audiences anything new, but it raises profound questions. Its manner of storytelling is captivating and seemed to touch many who were listening. Read more…

 

Now running through October 19.

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD at the Actors Co-Op Crossley Theatre

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Photo by Lindsay Schnebly

Jonas Schwartz -  Arts In LA

The Actors Co-op modest production of the Tony-winning The Mystery of Edwin Drood strips away the large orchestrations, the amplified mikes, and the harmonizing chorus and focuses on Rupert Holmes’s ribald script. Led by the superbly dry Peter Allen Vogt, Drood makes for an uproarious evening. Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

You cannot fault Actors Co-op for ambition. In taking on Rupert Holmes’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the group has tackled one of the most difficult and large-scale musicals of the past 30 years, and this intimate production is nonetheless a highly enjoyable show of sublimely smart and silly fun. Read more…

 

 

Now running through Oct. 26.